The doctor comes crying from the nursery, mom sees him in faints. Everyone who’s ever expected a child knows just what the anticipation can feel like. Expecting to at once can thus naturally be even more overwhelming. In matching blue jeans, white smocks and suede boots, five year old identical twins Abigail and Isabelle are not only impossible to tell apart,
there are also one in a million twins because while the chances of giving birth in the UK to a baby with down syndrome is approximately one in 10, the odds of giving birth to identical twins with the condition is one in a million. Maddie and Jody Perry certainly had double the emotion when they learned they were pregnant with twins.
The couple had already had a son and looked forward to welcoming two more Angels into their family. But their joy would quickly turn into fear and anxiety after their doctor called them into his office and uttered two terrifying words. I’m sorry, mom and dad. Jodie and Matt Perry from Churchilly, Lancashire, admitted they both grieved when they were told their girls had the condition.
However, they couldn’t be prouder of their daughters and say, even if their adorable girls could be born again without down syndrome, they wouldn’t wish for Abigail and Isabelle to be any different.
Jody said, when they were first born, we grieved when we found out they both had down syndrome, but now we wouldn’t change it for the world. There’s nothing in the world that could convince me to change them. Jody, who works in the police force, added, I wouldn’t say I have made any sacrifices because of the girls being born. It sounds sort of sugar coated, but the only things they have brought into our lives are positive. There’s nothing negative.
Matt, who works as a civil servant, said, I don’t care how many chromosomes they’ve got. I don’t care about the biology and the science behind the down syndrome. It doesn’t matter. I’ve learned there’s no difference between them and their brother Finn, other than the speed with which they’re developing. Brother Finn, aged eight, is his sister’s biggest cheerleader and said, My life wouldn’t be the same without them.
Down syndrome means that I have to help my sisters a bit more than if I had sisters with no down syndrome because they would be able to learn quicker. Isabelle was born with a hole in her heart, while Abigail wears a hearing aid and both have thyroid problems and mild to moderate learning difficulties. Jody said, Obviously they have a lot more hospital appointments and routine checkups. They’ve got an underactive thyroid, so they have a blood test for that. Taking two children to the hospital is a nightmare.
Just because you’ve got two life is just a bit more different. Everything just takes a bit longer. Between 2011 and 2013, there was 17.8% increase in abortions for down syndrome, and Matt and Jodie are concerned that without balanced advice alongside a controversial new test for the condition, the number of terminations would increase. Jodi said. When down syndrome is diagnosed prenatally, it comes with this child has got down syndrome, you can have a termination within the next ten weeks and that is kind of heartbreaking.
I think if you get the option to terminate straight away and nobody gives you the pros as well as the cons and people will terminate Isabel, left, and Abigail, right, smile for the camera at the family home in Charlie. Down syndrome, or trisomy 21, is a genetic condition caused by the presence of an extra chromosome 21, which can cause physical disability as well.
Associated problems with hearing and vision, congenital heart defects. Isabelle was born with a hole in her heart, while Abigail wears a hearing aid, thyroid problems and mild to moderate learning difficulties. The couple have created a charity called Twin Cess and tried to highlight the positives of having children with down syndrome.
Jody calls twin cells a celebration of down syndrome and a way to dispel any myths. While Matt and Jody have embraced the extra chromosomes, they have helped shape Isabelle and Abigail’s personalities. Matt admits that when they first learned their twins had down syndrome, they were devastated. He said, I don’t think I will ever forget that day. It was as if the whole world had ended.
Life was not how I wanted it. I just shut down completely. Because she was expecting identical twins, Jodie’s pregnancy was classed as high risk and she was scanned regularly throughout her pregnancy. The twins were born prematurely and spent four weeks in the neonatal unit where doctors told the Berries that the twins would be tested for down syndrome. Jody said, when the doctor took us to one side to give us the results, he said he was sorry that Abigail and Isabel had down syndrome.
To this day, I’ll never know what he was sorry for and I think if I could ever meet him again, I would like to show him Abigail and Isabel and say, Why did you say sorry? Because we wouldn’t change Abigail and Isabelle for the world right now. The girls now go to mainstream school, where they mostly communicate by sign and Jodi says the girls are thriving. She said they love school. Their main communication is by sign, but the girl’s speech improves daily.
Abigail is probably a little bit more behind in her speech because she suffers with hearing, so when she is at school, she wears a hearing aid. They can both say their own names mummy, Daddy and Finn. I’m not going to say we’ve got great expectations that we think that they’ll be the first person with down syndrome to be a Chartered accountant or anything like that. But as long as they’re given a chance, that’s all I could wish for. Today, five years later, the girls have shown just how wrong the doctor and all the prejudiced people and their surroundings were.
Every human, regardless of syndrome, or not deserves a chance of life and Abigail and Isabelle are excellent proof. Twins or multiple births, occur at a rate of about 2% in the population of 150 babies with down syndrome recorded on the UK National Down syndrome Cytogenic register. A total of 244 twin pairs are recorded, some prenatally diagnosed, including 29 pairs. 11.8% were both have down syndrome. Just look at this family.
They feared for their daughter’s future, but five years later the girls have proven everyone wrong. In fact, they are absolutely incredible blessings to this family and to the world. They are inspirations for everyone. About one in 700 pregnancies involve a fetus child with down syndrome, but the rate varies widely according to maternal age. About three in 10 pregnancies result in identical twins in an identical pair.
If one twin has down syndrome, so will the other. Non identical twins are commoner. The rate changes from six and 1000 pregnancies to up to 20 in 1000, depending on the ethnicity and geography. If one twin has down syndrome, the other has only the risk of an ordinary sibling. Since both non identical twins and down syndrome are associated with increasing maternal age, the proportion of non identical twins with down syndrome is probably higher than the overall proportion of babies with down syndrome, but I don’t know the figure.
The chromosome abnormality of down syndrome makes it very difficult for the cells to develop into viable eggs or sperm. Men with down syndrome were thought to be unable to father children at all, but there has been a proven case of an unaffected child whose father has down syndrome. Women with down syndrome are usually infertile, but perhaps 15% to 30% are actually fertile. Half of their offspring generally will have down syndrome. Taking those statistics together, it looks as if two people affected with down syndrome would almost never be able to produce any offspring.
If they did, there would be a 25% chance that the fertilized egg would not carry the extra chromosome for down syndrome. But since a quarter of the eggs would carry two extra chromosomes and would probably die, and even the half of the eggs with just one extra chromosome would be likely to result in miscarriage.
The end result of a pregnancy with two affected parents would be around 50 50 affected and unaffected, but by far the most likely outcome is that there would be no pregnancy at all. It’s more complicated than that though, because the extra chromosome in many people with down syndrome isn’t present in all tissues. If the ovaries or testicles don’t have the extra chromosome, fertility is likely to be normal and the offspring will not inherit down syndrome.